Seniors, students combine for a stroke of genius

While many people down breakfast and coffee and head to work, Tyler art students and senior citizens bonded over art Friday at 9:15 in the morning. Tyler students designed four paint-by-number images for members of

While many people down breakfast and coffee and head to work, Tyler art students and senior citizens bonded over art Friday at 9:15 in the morning.

Tyler students designed four paint-by-number images for members of St. Charles Senior Community Center, located at 1941 Christian St., as well as raised more than $200 worth of art supplies as a way to reach out to the community and earn three credits for their class, survey of printmaking techniques: lithography and serigraphy.

Until the unveiling of adjunct professor Melissa Morgan’s syllabus, many students said they never knew the course would involve baking cakes and social work with the elderly.

“Something like this has never been on an agenda in a class I had before, so I’m most excited to do something different,” said Christina Bolt, 19, a sophomore ceramics major.

Morgan said the project was initially met with apprehension among her students as some were unfamiliar in interacting with the elderly. She said artists usually tend to stay within themselves by nature.

“Art is intrinsically a very selfish act because we sit, … draw, … create and we’re in our heads for a lot of time,” Morgan said. “And I think Tyler, being so isolated, doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to reach out within the community.”

Center intern and Temple senior Theresa White provided the opportunity to Morgan. White met Morgan as co-workers at a part-time job where White inquired about some paint-by-number prints for the center members. Realizing the dual function of the project, Morgan etched it into her syllabus.

Tim Porter said everybody has benefited from the decision, especially the students.

“A lot of people get stuck in a mold and art is habit-forming,” said Porter, a junior sculpture major. “It’s a chance for all of us to get out of our heads and realize that we’re not working alone, that there are people out there.”

The 11 students worked alongside the community members, helping them paint the appropriate areas to reveal the mystery images they drew in class.

Many of the 30 estimated members in attendance were too engaged in conversing with the students to finish painting their prints of flowers, birds or kayaks. White said she hopes the students see the project not as the end of an assignment but as a beginning to something else.

“[Community outreach is] something that some of them may never do again, but maybe some of them will know that this is a part of who they are and understand that value of it. And understand that you don’t need to be Picasso to make a difference in someone’s life,” White, 32, said.

White began her tenure at Temple more than 10 years ago as an art major. However, due to financial constraints, she was forced to work full time in other concentrations. During this time, she realized “certain things were pulling me more than art was,” specifically social work, her current major.

“Certain things don’t stop just because you get older,” White said. “If you are a creative person, you stay a creative person. It just changes how you express that as you get older.”

Seventy-five-year-old Edith Ortiz’s creativity was on display as she blended various paints to form a shade of blue that resembled the color of water rapids.

“There is just so many things to do so I stay busy all day,” Ortiz said of the center. “This is really like a school ’cause there’s one class and then you run to the next class. Right now we’re skipping Bible class.”

Although the center offers a multitude of classes, Boles said this is the first time it has provided paint-by-number art and she hopes this won’t be the last partnership with Temple.

“It’s something I always wanted to do but when you go to the store it costs so much, it’s so expensive. So for Tyler to put this together … it worked perfectly for us,” Boles said. “Maybe Temple’s school of film can help next.”

Although Morgan’s adjunct status doesn’t guarantee her a job next spring, she says she plans on incorporating community outreach into later ventures. Sophomore Jessica Tyler said art is a great vehicle to help others or, at the least, is a great hobby.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re good at art,” said Tyler, 20, a painting and art education major. “It’s just fun, it’s hands-on, they can learn and do something creative. It can touch anyone.”

Steve Wood can be reached at

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